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Democracy building in post-Saddam Iraq : 'historical memory' and 'primitive democracy'

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conference contribution
posted on 01.01.2008, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
Iraq’s long and complex past has played a particularly poignant role in establishing and legitimating the various political movements that have ascended to power since the nation state was first created by the British in the early 1920s (Davis, 2005b). For example, the installed Hashemite monarchy that ruled Iraq until the 1958 revolution utilised their ancestral connection to the Prophet Muhammad to legitimate their claim of being the rightful legatees of the Arab lands, while later Saddam Hussein invoked the power of Iraq’s Mesopotamian past to build nationalism and unite the people against ancient enemies such as during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.What is problematic about these examples of ‘historical memory’ in Iraq is that they have also been used to justify a series of autocratic and despotic regimes that have attempted to quash Iraq’s civil society and curtail any semblance of democratic reform. However, this paper argues that such ‘historical memories’ may well be useful in reinvigorating the Iraqi public sphere and enabling the transition from despotism to democracy. To do this, this paper focuses on the ancient Mesopotamian practise of ‘Primitive Democracy’ and argues that reinvigorating such histories may serve to legitimate and promote democratic governance within Iraq.



Oceanic Conference on International Studies (2008 : Brisbane, Qld.)


1 - 18


The University of Queensland


Brisbane, Qld.

Place of publication

[Brisbane, Qld.]

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Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed; E Conference publication

Copyright notice

2008, The Authors

Title of proceedings

OCIS 2008 : Proceedings of the Oceanic Conference on International Studies

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